NASDAQ bound: Argenx eyes a $75 million IPO

The unassuming llama may be the star of a new $75 million initial public offering, announced Monday by the Netherlands and Belgium-based biotech argenx.

Reserva Nacional Salinas - Aguada Blancas near Arequipa, Peru

The unassuming llama may be the star of a new $75 million initial public offering (IPO), announced Monday by the Netherlands and Belgium-based biotech argenx.

If successful, the nine-year-old company will join the NASDAQ Global Select Market using the ticker symbol “ARGX.”

Argenx has raised significant cash to date through equity financing rounds and previous share offerings, following its listing on the Euronext Brussels exchange in mid-2014. It also stands to earn up to €2 billion through partnerships with the likes of Shire and AbbVie, according to a January financial presentation. However, with two Phase 2 readouts expected in the second half of 2018, it’s no doubt preparing to scale towards bigger, more expensive clinical trials and possible commercialization.

So what of the llamas?

Argenx has created an antibody discovery platform, SIMPLE Antibody, along with four drug candidates designed to treat different cancers and autoimmune diseases. The platform capitalizes on unique qualities found in the immune system of llamas.

According to the company website, the “V-regions” of llama and human antibodies are nearly identical. That’s important because the V-region is the key that allows the Y-shaped antibody to selectively bind target receptors. If it fits well, the llama antibodies have a shot as a human therapeutic.

At the same time, llamas produce a wide range of novel antibodies that open up new approaches to treating complex diseases. As the website notes, “Combining these two key findings during immunization leads to a phenomenal immune reaction of llamas against the disease targets and to the production of an enormous variety of human-like antibodies.”

Argenx isn’t alone in cultivating llama antibodies. However, it has created novel libraries of specific antibodies against multiple and diverse therapeutic targets. The company also lists three antibody engineering technologies, which help optimize the eventual drug candidate.

The company’s most advanced asset is ARGX-113, an antibody fragment that works to degrade disease-causing autoimmune antibodies circulating in the blood of patients with multiple sclerosis, immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), systemic lupus erythematosus, myasthenia gravis and skin blistering diseases. More specifically, ARGX-113 targets pathogenic immunoglobulin G, or IgG, a notable unmet need in medicine that existing antibodies haven’t been able to address, the company states.

Phase 2 studies of ARGX-113 are underway in myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune neuromuscular condition; and ITP, an autoimmune blood disorder. Neither has delivered data yet, other than Phase 1 results that showed good tolerability and specific IgG reduction of up to 85 percent.

The lead oncology asset, ARGX-110, is currently in Phase 2 testing for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial for acute myeloid leukemia.

According to the SEC filing, the IPO will happen as soon as possible. Cowen and Company and Piper Jaffray & Co. are acting as joint book-running managers for the proposed offering, and JMP Securities and Wedbush PacGrow are acting as co-managers.

Photo: Uwe-Bergwitz, Getty Images